Friday, June 26, 2015

My Journey to Half Dome

"Pizza and Beer." 
This was what kept us going for 9.5 hours!! The promise of beer and pizza. Well, it worked!! 
48,000 steps later, my biggest goal has been ACCOMPLISHED!! 
Making it to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park--CONQUERED.


Half Dome Hike

Summer 2014 was huge for me. I graduated college, became a coach, traveled alone for the first time, to Vegas where I knew no one, I got in the best shape of my life, and I was invited to hike this beast of a mountain. I've been going to Yosemite my ENTIRE life, literally every summer and I could hardly make it to the first waterfall...that was less than 2 miles. 

Half Dome is no joke. You have to be prepared, you have to be in shape, and you have to constantly have a positive mindset the entire time. I'm no mountain climber. I've always gotten out of breath climbing a flight of stairs, and high elevation always messes with my breathing. Excuses, excuses, excuses. But I did it!

Here is a quick preview of my Journey to the Top of Half Dome and some tips if you plan on tackling this hike:

1. PREP:

You have to prepare for this hike, preferably months in advance. It takes luck to get permits nowadays. In order to hike Half Dome (for safety reasons, so not too many people are on the cables), you have to enter a lotto and get a permit. If you do not have a permit, you cannot go past Sub Dome. Trust me when I say, Sub Dome is the hardest, and there is a ranger waiting for your permit at the top. If you do not have one, all that sweat and hard work for nothing.

Hiking Shoes

Shoes: You also must have the RIGHT hiking shoes, and you need to break them in before. I got mine at Mel Cotton's Sporting Goods only a few days before, so I had to wear them for two days straight, walk around, break them in, and get used to them. I also got thick ankle socks that were breathable and had a ton of support. This is essential! 

Hiking Poles: These things saved my life! My uncle gave me two and I ended up giving one to my brother's girlfriend so we shared them. My hip had been bothering me a few days before, so going up the treacherous stairs of Vernal and slippery rock stairs of Nevada would have been even more intense without this support. Also, on the way down, the pole was my support the entire time. Use them, trust me.

Gloves: This is something you DO NOT forget!! A few people in my hiking party had gardening gloves, a few dirt biking, but whatever you use, make sure they have grips! Even my brother, who does Crossfit, hikes anything with flip flops on, and has non-stop energy, said he would not make it on the cables without gloves. You are gripping for your life, and need to rely on them when you're hanging off the side of the mountain.

Half Dome Cables
Half Dome Cables--View from Sub Dome

GU Energy Gel: I was surprised when my mom came home with a ton of these packets (you can get them at any sporting goods store) but I definitely think they helped with my energy levels. I had about 3 total the entire hike (and they were delicious) and they give you a burst of electrolytes and energy you need to just keep going!

Camelback: The only places to get water are at the bridge to Vernal (and you've hardly had any water yet), top of Nevada (and it's from the waterfall), and I didn't see anymore. That's not even halfway to the top. You have to have a fairly large camelback. I actually didn't drink water constantly (and I drink a TON of water), but your'e sweating the entire time and need to replenish at least at the top of each check point. It's also nice and cooling on your back and you need a place for the next items.

Vernal Falls
Top of Vernal Falls! Check point 1 done! :)

Snacks: Pack allll the snacks. My hiking party had bags of trail mix, pb sandwiches, GU, P90X bars, and some meds just in case. We didn't really take a break to eat until on top of Nevada Falls, where we didn't stop for long, and then ate on top of Half Dome, but our bodies were not feeling up to really eating until after the hike. 

p90x bars

Hat: Even though the first couple hours of the hike are not sunny if you are doing this before sunrise (and I highly suggest you leave before 5am), and there are a ton of trees after Vernal, the hike to Sub/Half Dome are in direct sun. This is when you need to replenish your energy and save it for the cables. Definitely wear a hat, it'll soak up your sweat too, lol!

top of Half Dome
Sitting on top of the World <3

Advil: I had a lot of hip pain before this trip, so I popped Advil several times throughout the hike. It is an anti-inflammatory and really helped me, along with the poles.

Permits: This is mandatory. Make sure your group leader has the permits in his/her camelback ready to show the ranger. You will be asked.

Mindset: The most important prep "item" in my opinion. Sure, I had done month 1 of Insanity, I had awesome endurance, muscle tone on my arms and legs for the first time, and I was confident in my physical ability to at least make it to the top of one waterfall (which I almost cried on top of because it was such a huge deal)...but if you're not working your MIND muscle, you might as well not go. You HAVE to be positive, have that concept of positivity no matter what, and encourage yourself because you can't expect others to do it for you. Everyone is struggling at some point--even if they're in amazing shape. One foot in front of the other seems like a long flipping time over 9.5 hours. I read personal development books every day to prepare (and this is something I just do anyway) along with audios. I told myself everyday before going that I would make it to the top and prove everyone wrong (mostly myself). Since I was always the family member who would collapse at the Mist Trail, have trouble breathing, would turn around and quit...I wanted to finally say that not only did I surpass Vernal and Nevada, but I climbed the damn cables, made it to the TOP, and didn't even want to stop. I was even ahead most of the time because I knew that if I was the last person in the group, I'd get discouraged and down on myself. Nope, my mindset would not allow me to quit.

Sub Dome
2 Miles away! Winding up to Sub Dome!
Hiking Party: Go with people who lift you up, are encouraging, in the same shape as you, and have that mindset. I suggest going with your significant other, siblings, or really close friends. Everyone hikes at their own pace, but it's so important to have people you're close to. This is definitely a HUGE test of willpower, and you'll want as many positive vibes as possible. I went with my brother, his girlfriend, and my boyfriend. It was an awesome, supportive group!


I touched on this already, but you have to be in decent shape. Some people can just put on shoes and go for a run when they never run, and I can't even handle those people, lol! However, this is different. I'm not saying you need to be training like a beast, but if you have permits, you better be doing some sort of endurance activity. I was doing Insanity with Shaun T, and it's because of that first month that I persevered and made it to the top. The workouts were pretty long, the moves were incredibly hard, and my endurance was tested every single day. I was fueling my body with protein and superfoods (thank you Shakeology) so I never got sick, I would help my soreness with stretching, and I modified when I couldn't keep up. My shin splints flared up a bit because I was going so hard everyday, but I iced my hip and shins daily, and took advil when needed.

I really prepared my body physically, and was eating super clean. I think this is super important because it'll also help your mental clarity. Fitness + Nutrition + Personal Development = healthy mind, body, and soul! :)

Half Dome Hike
My brother was an amazing support system the entire time!!

3. ENJOY: The entire time you're hiking, you have to take it all in. Yes, there will be times you feel like you're going to collapse. Take a minute, look at the beauty you're surrounded by, be grateful you are capable of even doing this, and keep going. Take pictures along the way, but really be present. Also, don't be stupid. Be safe, stay inside the cables, stay on the path, slow down when you need to, breathe, take breaks, and drink a ton of water when needed!

This was overlooking the edge of Half Dome into Yosemite Valley--scary stuff, but amazing!!

There was one point where I had a mini breakdown. For me, this was a win. Whenever I used to hike Vernal, every few steps I would get tears in my eyes and have that horrible voice that told me I was going to fail. This time, I made it to the top of Vernal without complaint. Then I led everyone to the top of Nevada Falls without complaint. Then I popped Advil because my hip flared up, then I led everyone the long and winding path that climbed up to Sub Dome.

This, was where I had to talk myself down. I was going too fast. The altitude got to me. I all of a sudden had a hard time breathing. I told my team to go on and I sat down with tears in my eyes wondering after this entire time if my body couldn't go any further. I said no, absolutely not. I've come this far, so I literally talked to myself (in my head). I took huge breaths, slowly, looked around at this amazing beauty, realized how small I was compared to it, and got back up. I relied on the pole heavily on the switch backs up Sub Dome, and it was pretty scary because there wasn't really a path after that...but that was incredibly thrilling.

Half Dome cables
Selfie at the Half Dome cables!

Sub Dome was really intense because you had to stay in the "center" of the giant rock. Both sides were round (hello it's a dome) so you would go off the edge if you weren't in the middle. You're basically on your hands rock climbing at some points, which scared the shit out of me but I made it to the cables as you can see.

We put our poles down, and gloved up! When I was preparing for this hike, my uncle said we had to use harnesses and clip on/off the entire time up the cables. He had 3 small boys who went with him so they did this for safety. However, we didn't end up using the 2 harnesses we brought with us. Why? Well, did you see the cable picture above? It would have taken FOREVER!!

Basically, the gloves saved us. It was 100% upper body strength hefting ourselves from plank to plank up the mountain. The planks were basically strips of wood you stood on to breathe in between each insane pull up strength to get to each plank. Basically, adrenaline was what helped me reach the top (and arm strength from Insanity). You don't realize what your mind and body are capable of! It took a good 20 min, and it's pretty scary when people are coming down--you have no where to go but hold on for dear life with one hand. DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT go outside the cables. That's how people have died, and I saw several people slide way too far and it was terrifying.

On Top of Half Dome--cables have been conquered!! Thank you Shaun T--all the pushups saved me!! :)

It was incredibly satisfying when we reached the top. The whole time on the way up the cables, I never looked down. I kept my eyes focused on the next cable, then the next, until I was climbing over the edge, on to the top of the world!

top of half dome

9.5 hours later. 15 miles. All the willpower and strength I could muster. When I reached the top, I have never felt such a rush. I looked around and realized how incredibly small humans are and how insanely amazing nature is. I made a video about my full fitness journey, with my hike to Half Dome as a very significant part of it. You can watch the video below, or click here for more details.

All in all, this journey changed my life, altered my perception of time, space, and the future, and I will always be grateful for being able to experience this outstanding beauty we call Yosemite.
I look forward to taking another trip, but I am still overcome with emotion just thinking back on this one!

"The Mountains are Calling and I must go." <3

1 comment:

  1. Work Citation - Logan, Paula. “Kou Tea Clinical Studies.” Phenofficial.Com, i.e. PhenOfficial, Accessed 6 March. 2019.


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